Monday, January 25, 2016

Puckette's Charge: Wine Folly

Are you new to wine? Do you want to learn about wine from someone who knows only the teeniest bit more than you? Isn’t that the way you prefer to learn, from someone just a little bit smarter than you? What if you wanted to become a surgeon? Medical school is so expensive, and the teachers there talk way over your head! Surgery doesn’t have to be just for brainiacs! Why not just learn from the local butcher? Surgery is just knives and meat. Start there. But you don’t want to be a surgeon, you want to learn about wine. That’s why Wine Folly is here! No brainiacs allowed! We’re Wine Folly. We’re the knives, and you’re the meat! Let’s get started.

I’m Madeline Puckette, and I’m just like you. I like to get drunk and make videos! And I figured out how to create a wine empire for people just like us, people who want our wine knowledge to be shallow, but good enough to make our craft beer drinking friends think we’re cool. I make wine simple because I know you’re simple. I even use a really large typeface for Wine Folly so that it’s easier to use your fingers to read it. I never take the intelligence of my fans for granted. I just assume you’re reading Wine Folly because you don’t have much. And, dammit, that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying and understanding wine! Other wine websites use all these big words that are confusing. Not here. I make wine simple. And I never forget that my fans are like privileged white kids with powerful attorneys—I always give you really short sentences.

You’ll find lots of neat graphics on Wine Folly, too! At first, they might not make sense. But stay with it, maybe read along with a friend who has a high school diploma. The graphics are a way to make wine easier to understand. For example, you might read in one of those hard wine books with hardly any pictures that wine is about 85% water, 14% alcohol, and 1% minerals and acids and stuff like that. I know, that’s not easy to understand for me either. What exactly does that mean, 85% and 14% and all that? So I made a pie chart! Don’t you love pie charts? I like them almost as much as I like real pie (oh, yes, I forgot to mention that I’m really funny, too). If you don’t know what a pie chart is, you will! I’m all about pie charts. A pie chart is a chart in the shape of a pie. We call it “round.” A wine can be “round,” too, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves! That’s advanced wine talk. On my “round” pie chart I divide the circle into three parts. The biggest part is the 85% part, and it’s labeled “water.” This would be the part of the pie Robert Parker eats! Another part, a lot smaller, says “alcohol.” This is the little part of the pie that I might eat, and maybe throw it up later when no one’s looking. Finally, a little sliver is the “minerals, acids and other junk” part. Give that little piece to the wino downtown. See! That’s so much easier to understand. Simple, right? Wine is mostly water like Wine Folly is mostly empty space.

Now hop on over to Amazon and buy my new book, “Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine.” Don’t be scared that it’s 240 pages! You can read the whole book in about 20 minutes. Well, maybe not you. It’s jampacked with pie charts, and graphs, and the sorts of illustrations you find on absolutely the finest cocktail napkins! Many of them took several minutes on the internet to research. Look, you can buy 50 different beginner wine books on Amazon, and they all say the same things. There’s absolutely nothing new here. Not in those books, and sure as hell not in mine. But “Wine Folly” has all my pie charts and graphs! They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Oh, don’t let that intimidate you. My pictures are only worth five or six!

You’re going to learn so much about wine from my books and videos! For example, I help you understand how to taste a wine. First, you need to smell it. This is from my book:

“Hold your glass just under your nose and sniff once to ‘prime’ your nose. Then swirl your wine once and smell again. This time, smell the wine longer and slower but just as delicately. Switch between sniffing and thinking.”

This is how even MWs and MSs smell wine. You can’t be expected to sniff and think at the same time! No one can do that. It’s why we hold our breath when we’re trying to figure out the crossword puzzles in “Highlights for Children.” And it’s important you just swirl the wine once. Wine can get dizzy, and then it gets all confused. Hey, you haven’t even bought my book yet and already you’re a lot smarter about wine!

I don’t like to brag, but what sets me apart from the other people writing about wine is that I don’t feel the need to be right all the time. Wine isn’t about facts. You get that. The whole reason to have a wine blog and to write a wine book is to show people that none of that stuff really matters. Facts, in fact (oh, I can’t help it, I’m just pixieish and funny), are just like wine. Pick the ones you like and just ignore the other ones. I try to make it into a game. See if you can figure out what facts are actually facts, and which ones I’m ignoring. Smart people get bogged down in details, which is just so stupid. But when you read Wine Folly, don’t worry, there’s no smart people here!

I think close enough is good enough. Like I’m close enough to a wine expert that you should buy my book. Like in one of my informative videos I compare an Oregon Pinot Noir to a California Pinot Noir. Which was fun because I had no idea what I was talking about. So the California Pinot Noir was a William Hill Pinot Noir from the Central Coast. I don’t know what that means. Central Coast? That’s vague. A Coast is really long, and a Central is really small. WTF?  So I mentioned that when a wine label says Central Coast the grapes could come from anywhere from all the way up in Mendocino to all the way down to Santa Barbara. See there! Close enough! If you don’t know that’s way off, then your stupid Millennial friends won’t know either. And, come on, Mendocino is only a few hundred miles off! And it’s not like I didn’t know Oregon was near Canada somewhere.

My book is the top-selling wine book on Amazon! Suck it Jancis and Karen! You spend years and years writing your books and I write mine over the weekend. I guess we know who the best wine writer in the world is now. Ask Geoff Kruth MS, or“The Washington Post,” or all the other really smart people who put my book in their Best Wine Books of the Year lists. Those hypocrites. They know. Facts just don’t really matter.

Monday, January 18, 2016

What Not to Publish on Your Stupid Wine Blog in 2016

Here we go, a January tradition. This year, pay closer attention...


Ooooh, a new study shows that the alcohol percentage listed on bottles of wine is usually wrong, and more often than not is higher than listed! So the fuck what? You don’t need to chime in and act like this matters to you, or anyone else. “The label says it’s 14.6%, but when we analyzed the wine it was 14.9%!” Listen to me, No One Cares. We talked about this last year! We drink wine for the alcohol, so who cares if what it says on the label is wrong? Pedantic, uptight, anal-retentive jerkoffs, that’s who. Lazy ass “journalists” who can’t think of anything actually interesting to write about. Oh, maybe the label misleads me and I get pulled over by the Highway Patrol and the officer giving me the Breathalyzer doesn’t believe me when I say, “If I’d known the Chardonnay was actually 15.6% ABV instead of 14.9% like the label said, I wouldn’t have had that fourth glass.” Yeah, that could happen. And maybe the officer is a babe who asks you to drop your pants and offers to give you the alternative Fartalyzer test. I took one recently and blew a .12, and all the candles out on a birthday cake. The alcohol percentage on almost every goddam bottle of wine is wrong! There are actual reasons for that, but it isn’t important. Don’t worry about it. Don’t even look at it. Ignore it. People who pick up a bottle of wine and believe the alcohol percentage listed on the label is accurate are the same fools who think wine aerators work. Is that who you want reading your wine blog? Those morons? Don’t write about goddam alcohol percentages. You sound like an idiot, and you don’t know what you’re talking about.


And when some utterly unread and worthless blog publishes a list of The 100 Most Influential Wine Bloggers and your creepy little compendium of masturbatory musings makes the list, have the common sense to ignore it. There are no Influential Wine Bloggers! It’s stupid to think there are. You get 20,000 hits per month and you’re influential? I guess that makes NFL wives influential, then. Or your crack pipe, if you believe that shit. A list like that is like a list of The 100 Most Powerful Homeless People. They’re homeless! How much power can they have? Bloggers are the wine business’ homeless people—always asking for handouts, free alcohol and warm places to sleep, then wondering why no one wants to make eye contact with them. Plus, they smell bad. And you’re #87 on the list! Congratu-fucking-lations! I’d be crowing about that, too, right after I finished bragging about how I got one number right in the PowerBall lottery. Just write your little blog, don’t bother us with how impressed some other loser is with your influence. It’s boring, and it’s unbecoming to someone with so much awesome power!


Here’s another subject to avoid—2016 is the 40th anniversary of the Paris tasting. Great, you can do math! You weren’t there, you’ve never tasted any of the wines that were judged, everything you know about it comes from the movie “Bottle Shock…” Which means you don’t know shit from Sassicaia. Wow, a bunch of French wine experts were fooled! How often does that happen? Every week? Every time Michel Bettane publishes? No one wants to read your thoughts about how that tasting changed the course of history. Basically because you’ll just parrot the same crap that’s been said about the Paris tasting for the last fucking forty years! Did it change the course of California wine? I guess you could say that. I mean, groups of stupid people can change history, look at the OJ Simpson jury and the Hollywood Foreign Press. If it weren’t for the Paris tasting, would there be an Opus One? So, yeah, thanks a lot French judges. It doesn’t matter, just don’t publish anything about the Paris tasting on your wine blog—what the hell can you say about it that matters, or that hasn’t been said better by people with a lot more talent than you have? It was a blind tasting and the California wines did a little better. What does that prove? You know how every idiot says that he and his friends had a tasting of Cabernets and the cheapest wine won? So, like that. It was a bunch of French judges in 1976, a very bad jury of your pères. Let it pass.


And we get it, the three-tier system of wine distribution sucks. Wow, there you go, sticking your neck out with those outside-the-box opinions! Those giant distributors are squeezing out the little guys like so many butt pimples. Which makes it harder for all the smaller, boutique wineries to get representation and distribution. Which means it takes those wineries years to learn that there’s no demand for the mediocre crap they’re making when it used to take only months. That doesn’t seem fair. And it means that you may only have tens of thousands of wines to choose from instead of hundreds of thousands, which matters, even if you always buy the same eight wines most of the time. If you live in a state that doesn’t allow wine shipments—MOVE, asshole! Though if you’re in the state next to Utah, man, you’re going to wish there were more Syrians available.


Do you really feel the need every year to predict wine trends? You’re suddenly wine’s Nostradamus? I predict you’re going to end up with a horse’s head in your bed if you keep it up, and I’m wine’s Cosa Nostradamus. Every fucking blog had the same four stupid predictions. Hey, I know, next year let’s predict the calendar. My prediction? This year, April is going to show up right around late March. You heard it here first. Idiots. You’re barely in the wine business. You write a wine blog, for hump’s sake. Believing your predictions for what’s going to happen in the wine business in the coming year is like believing Ted Cruz is going to be the President of Canada, which would be nice because who the hell cares about Canadians? So resist the urge to predict wine trends. You’re full of shit, you know it, we all know it, and you should just stick to what you do best. Plagiarism.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Donald Trump, Your New Emperor of Wine

Some of you morons are going to ask what qualifications I have to be a wine critic. I have better qualifications than the clowns who are writing about wine now, but, I admit, that’s not saying much. I mean, look at Robert Parker. He’s just some fat, old, former attorney. You know what I call fat, old, former attorneys? Bathroom attendants. I shake my schlong dry and they wipe up after. Who cares what that washed-up schlong mop thinks about wine? I know a lot more about wine than Parker does. I gave the greatest winery in the state of Virginia to my son. Well, my idiot son. But there you go, that just shows you I must be against abortion.

And don’t talk to me about Jim Laube. He couldn’t make it as a sports writer so he gets a gig with some wine magazine that people read while they’re taking a dump, and you’re going to take his wine advice? I feel sorry for you. Did you know he spits all the wine?! That’s disgusting. I never spit, not unless there’s a Muslim or a Mexican around. Or Megyn Kelly. I have ten wine cellars, and each one is bigger than Laube’s whole house. There’s your damned qualifications.

And who is this Antonio Balloni guy? Galloni? What’s his name? Balloni, Galloni, it’s all the same. No, listen, I like Antonio, he’s a nice guy. His wife, his wife is gorgeous. He’s probably too drunk most of the time to take care of her, but that’s her problem. Wouldn’t happen if she were my wife, just sayin’. He’s a nice guy, but he doesn’t have much of a palate. I know the guy, I’ve tasted with him, I’ve sat across from him, and, let me tell you, I had to explain the wines to him. The guy tells me the wine is corked, and there’s the cork sitting right there next to the open bottle! He’s an idiot. Though I’d do his wife, his wife is a babe.

When I’m your leading wine critic, we’re going to make wine great again! These guys, Parker and Laube and Galloni, they’ve ruined wine. Wine is worse now than it was when Jesus was making it. And that was some pretty nasty stuff back then. Well, what do you expect? Jesus was a Jew, and Jews don’t make good wine, everybody knows that. But it’s worse now. I’ve had every wine that those wine weaklings have given a hundred points. I’ve got cases of those wines. You know what? They stink. I wouldn’t let Hilary drink ‘em. I wouldn’t let Bill drink ‘em either because he’d go out and try to get some intern to taste from his meat thief.

If I made a wine that Parker gave a hundred points, I’d be ashamed of myself. Like I voted for a Kenyan for President of the United States. I’d just give up winemaking and go back to school and try to do something useful with my life. Like maybe be a suicide bomber at VinItaly. You have to be a terrible winemaker to get a hundred points from Parker. I feel sorry for those guys. I know even my idiot son wouldn’t hire a winemaker like that.

If I tell you a wine is great, that’s all you have to know. Just run out and buy as many bottles as you can afford. I don’t need to give it points. 88—94—107…what does that mean? 38-24-36, now we’re talking. Those are some points. I married those points, with a Double D after the first score. Who cares how many points you get? This isn’t the NBA! Black people don’t drink wine. I love black people, but they don’t drink wine. I think it’s genetic, like Asians. Anyway, when I’m your wine critic, there won’t be any points. Don’t need ‘em. They’re like tits on Bernie Sanders. Or Carly Fiorina, she may have some one day. Hey, Carly, I’m buyin’!

Once I’m in charge of what wines sell, I’m also going to clean up the winery business. Oh, they’re not gonna like it. But I don’t care. I’m not weak like that New York Times sissy Eric Asimov. Too bad Eric isn’t more like his Uncle Isaac. That guy was a great bartender! “The Love Boat,” what a great show. Captain Shtupping—I’ve been called that! This might shock you, but 97% of the wineries in this country employ illegal aliens! 97%! Mexicans!

Why are we letting Mexicans pick our wine grapes? It’s crazy. They cross our borders, they steal, they take our charity, they rape our women, then they pick our wine grapes. Where do they get their energy? It’s crazy to let Mexicans pick our wine grapes. What’s next? We let Al Qaeda build our airports? Boko Haram run the Girl Scouts? It’s gotta stop. I’d build a wall around wine country, see how many of them could get past it to pick grapes. I mean, France has all kinds of walls around their vineyards. They call ‘em Clos. It works. You never see a Mexican in Bordeaux. You don’t hear Parker talking about this problem, but he’s weak. The Emperor has no Clos.

This rating wine thing is easy. I’ll tell you how easy it is. I don’t even drink, and I’m the most powerful wine critic in the world. Drinking shows weakness. I’ll give them one thing, the Muslims got that right. Name one great leader who drank. OK, Churchill, but if it wasn’t for us Americans that fat slob ends up Hitler’s buttboy. Now Hitler, he didn’t drink. There was a leader! Yeah, he did some stuff he shouldn’t have, but the guy could throw a rally! I’m thinking maybe I should start the Trump Youth. Really, it’s simple, you want to be a leader, don’t drink and have cool hair.

When I’m the most famous wine critic, which is maybe a month or so away, after I start my new wine magazine, “Wine Trumptator,” you can be sure that I’ll be telling you the best wines to drink based on things far more important than taste. Like advertising. You want great wine reviews, you want the Trumptator seal of approval? Run some full-page ads in “Wine Trumptator!” Grow up, America. This is how business works. Oh, yeah, sure, some of you are going to whinge about how this isn’t fair to the little guy, the guy who can’t afford an ad in my magazine. Suck it up. Grow a pair. Or if you’re Hitler, grow one! This isn’t going to be Obama’s America where we blind taste and pretend we’re objective, where we try to support the little guy. Wine isn’t about objectivity. Wine isn’t about stories and dreams. Only losers think that. Wine is about prestige and power. You snuggle up to wine because you want to be seen as important and educated, like me. It won’t work, but try not to look stupid doing it, not like poor Bill Koch. Bill, I love you, I know you look up to me, but getting suckered by some pimply little Asian dude selling you fake wines? You’re a loser. Winners drink what I tell them to drink. Face it, you don’t know anything about wine or you wouldn’t be reading wine magazines in the first place.

So here’s my first recommendation. Meomi Pinot Noir. Buy it. The guy sold it to Constellation for 700 million dollars! I love the guy. Wagner. Wrote great operas, too. Who is this guy, I want to meet him. He’s a winner. Lots of ads, lots of press, bang, his crap wine gets lots of high scores! When I’m through, the wine business will never be the same.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A Strange Experience

I had a strange experience, an experience that moved me in a way I’m still trying to digest.

My wife and I ordered a Marzemino at our favorite local Italian restaurant. It was lovely, in that captivating way the red wines of Trentino have, so delicate and yet so powerful. My wife was unfamiliar with the variety, but it’s one I’ve long adored when I’ve encountered it. When we arrived home after lunch, I searched Marzemino to get a little more information about it. After all these years, I still love to immerse myself in wine’s almost incomprehensible variety.

One of the first listings in my Google search was for a post about Marzemino on a wine blog I’d encountered before, but not in a very long time—Fringe Wine. I clicked on the link, and read the brief article about Marzemino (a grape that always makes me think of a prize fighter—Rocky Marzemino—but that’s a different story). I noticed that the author of the blog, a Rob Tebeau, hadn’t published since 2014, and that was a single post. Prior to that, he’d written in July of 2013. Now, it’s certainly not odd to find abandoned wine blogs. The Internet is littered with them, like cigarette butts on the information highway. But, bored and rather sleepy from my long Marzemino-fueled lunch, I clicked on Mr. Tebeau’s last post. It’s here, if you want to read it: Fringe Wine.

That last post is about Mr. Tebeau’s struggles with depression. It completely disarmed me. It speaks of his experiences with ECT, electro convulsive therapy. It’s candid, and it is filled with a desperation in its voice that is distilled down to something powerful and pure, Depression Grappa. I swear I felt my heart pounding.

So I read the “last” post from a year earlier, July 2013. In that post, Mr. Tibeau writes hauntingly of his struggle with depression. I’ve never read anything like it on a wine blog. Of his depression he writes:

“It takes away the things you love and your drive by removing your capacity to love and your capacity for action.  It's a grief with no cause and a pain with no source or location.  Nothing makes it better.  Nothing makes it go away.  You wake up in the morning and it's waiting for you at the foot of your bed.  And somehow it's gotten bigger in the night, and it grabs you a little harder every day.”

It’s painful to read that. But it’s also beautifully expressed.

I only read those three posts, the one on Marzemino, and the two final posts, written a year apart. The very last post, about ECT, had zero comments.

Something about this ate at me. I decided to search for Mr. Tebeau to see what had become of him. I quickly learned that he had died, quite suddenly (the obits read) only a few weeks after that last post. He was 33. The last word he wrote on that final post of Fringe Wine was, “Goodbye.”

I don’t need to know any more of Mr. Tibeau’s struggles, or about how he died. That’s a kind of voyeurism I’m not comfortable around. I didn’t know him, I didn’t regularly read his wine blog, and I never mentioned it, or insulted him, on HoseMaster of Wine™. I’m grateful for that. And, honestly, I nosed around in his life more than I probably should have, driven by something that I can’t quite put my finger on—it was more than idle curiosity. When I discovered he had died shortly after that last piece, I was dumbstruck. And I didn’t even know him. Yet I felt a profound sadness having learned of his death, having read his last words.

And then there is the eternal life that is the Internet. We think of the Internet as a place of immediacy, where we go for instant gratification and connection. But reading Mr. Tebeau’s last posts was like reading his diary—not a violation of his privacy, of course, but intimate and terrible. I don’t think I’ve ever realized the sort of immortality publishing on the web brings to all of us here, I didn't really comprehend its implications, how our deaths will change the way our words are read and perceived. It makes me want to delete HoseMaster of Wine™ the minute I retire. Problem is, I retire so often, even I don’t know when it’s for real.

As much variety as there is to wine, there is an equal variety to the reasons people are drawn into it. For some it’s about insobriety, for some it’s about wine’s inexplicable prestige, for some it’s simply a path they stumbled across and thought they’d be good at. Reading Mr. Tebeau’s words, “I started this project a few years ago in an attempt to occupy myself during another particularly nasty time in my life.  It was interesting and it engaged me and I learned a lot of really cool things in the process.  Those wines and this site helped me get back on balance at a time when I was in danger of losing control.  Wine has helped stabilize me at several different times in my life.” made me wonder about my own motivations, my own desires and needs, that fueled me to make wine my life’s work, as trivial as that has been.

I’ve written previously about how I stumbled into my sommelier career, and about how this stupid blog came to be. I won’t bore you with rehashing all of that. I loved wine from the very first. It wasn’t my first career, but it was my life. I have no regrets about that, but, now, I wonder about that choice.

The role of wine that we rarely discuss is how it makes us feel better about ourselves. It begins with the alcohol, of course. I’ve been an angry person my entire life, impatient and short-tempered, intolerant and unkind. Wine, somehow, takes me to a better person in myself. Not when I’m alone. If I’m alone and angry, wine makes it that much worse. But among others, wine seems to make me more collegial, less angry. When I discovered that, as I did in my 20’s, I began to need wine. Not in an addictive way, I’m far from an alcoholic. I swear. Really. Ask any bartender in town. No, I think I needed wine to find that better person in myself. Anger drives my sense of humor, as it drives most senses of humor, but wine made me enjoy the company of other human beings, and even like the man I was. I’d never believed that possible.

But the other way wine makes us feel better about ourselves is the way it allows us to claim some sort of superiority, some measure of status and class. I was proud to be a sommelier, not because I was good at it, or because one should be proud of knowing a lot about wine, in the big picture wine is laughably unimportant, but I was proud because most other people in our Western culture assign admiration to folks who are very wine knowledgeable. It’s prestigious to know a lot about wine. It may be fun to know endless baseball trivia, it may be interesting to collect stamps, but one is almost ashamed to admit those hobbies knowing the vacant stares the admission will earn. Being employed as a sommelier made me somebody. Not in my own eyes, but in the eyes of others. And that’s what I needed, that’s what kept me in wine, the admiration, the being somebody. I managed to hide from my own self-loathing for those hours I was in the wine business. I wonder how many of my peers feel the same way. I'm certain it's many.

There’s something tragic about all this. Or comic. I sense it every time I watch a show like “Uncorked,” or sense the desperation of a wine blogger yearning for more and more attention, or read about a wealthy individual ardently filling a wine cellar with hundreds of cases of prestigious wines. It’s only wine. That’s what I always think. It’s only wine. Pursue it, write about it, collect it, make it, sell it, above all drink it, but always remember, it’s only wine. I’ve felt the anger of others who've forgotten it’s only wine—from Georg Riedel to The Hair. There is anger everywhere in the wine business, an almost territorial sort of aggression. And I often forget myself that it's only wine, and then my anger goes flying around the Internet. But, I comfort myself, at least my anger is funny.

On the Internet, we create new selves. On FaceBook, on Twitter, on Snapchat, on every dating site, people spend hours and hours creating a new, better, smarter, prettier face to present to the world. For his last two posts, Rob Tebeau didn’t. I won’t be able to meet another person seriously involved in wine without thinking about him. Maybe I am him. Maybe it’s death that’s sitting at the foot of my bed every morning when I wake up. And maybe it’s wine that keeps thoughts of my own death, my own shortcomings, my own fears and sadness, at bay. Maybe it’s wine that allows me to continue to live with the illusion that my life is important. And maybe that’s why I love wine.

I’m haunted by that last piece of Mr. Tebeau. The fear that pervades it. The honesty. The No Comments. The Goodbye.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Authorized Fake Wines, and Other REAL Trends in 2016

What will be the most important, most newsworthy trends in the wine business in 2016? What trends and events will trigger every idea-less wine blogger to take to his keyboard and rewrite other people’s original remarks? This is the big question that arises every January. I have the answer. It’s going to be a very dull year in the wine business in 2016. Remember, you heard it here first. Nothing especially significant is going to happen. For God’s sake, it’s wine. It’s insignificant by definition. It’s happy juice made from grapes. Hard to think of much that’s more insignificant—maybe wrestling, or YouTube. That said, and it needed to be said, here are the trends and events I foresee for 2016.

Predicting wine trends each year has become column fodder for just about every wine writer--yet another Wines for Thanksgiving, Gifts for the Wine Lover, and Top 100 Wines sort of drivel. Let's face it, predicting Grower Champagnes will retain their popularity, or that Natural Wines will become more mainstream, or that younger wine writers will emerge to influence the market, is the equivalent of gazing into your crystal ball and predicting "Star Wars" will make a lot of money. Wine writers make Miss Manners seem cutting edge. 

In order to read the HoseMaster's predictions for 2016, you'll need to pop over to Tim Atkin's site, where I'm beginning my fourth year as a contributor. That's hard to believe. As always, do comment over at Tim's site, or if that's too challenging, or you don't feel so Downton Abbeyish, you may leave your fresh crumpets for my delectation here.